Switch draws back the curtains on SUPERNAP

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LAS VEGAS (WOOD) — Walking into a Switch SUPERNAP data center can be intimidating.

The halls in the office portion of the facility give off a dark, industrial look. Heavily armed guards in tactical gear watch your every move, even escorting visitors to the restroom.

If you’re storing data, the heart and soul of information, you had better be serious.

“There’s so much infrastructure inside of this place and any major infrastructure asset, you want to make sure is protected. And we’re talking about the infrastructure that’s running the Internet,” Adam Kramer, the executive vice president of strategy for Switch, told 24 Hour News 8 during a Thursday tour of the facility in Las Vegas.>>PHOTOS: Inside Switch

In the work areas at SUPERNAP (super meaning really big and NAP standing for network access point), servers are stacked in neatly arranged racks. A high-tech air handling system removes and recycles the heat from those servers.

From the outside of the building, the red-topped modular air handlers give the SUPERNAP Centers a look of science fiction.

24 Hour News 8 was not allowed to take pictures inside SUPERNAP of the high-tech, often exclusive technology that has made Switch a leader in the data storage industry. They keep a very tight rein on security. The technology developed by Switch founder Rob Roy and the sensitive nature of the data they store is the reason you won’t be able to walk in the front door of their future West Michigan operation, either.

24 Hour News 8 also got the chance to go one-on-one with Switch officials for the first time since Michigan legislators approved controversial tax breaks that convinced the Nevada-based data storage pioneer to put its East Coast Hub at the old Steelcase pyramid site south of Grand Rapids.

Switch is already doing business in Grand Rapids. Contractors have started work inside the former Steelcase research and development facility located near the intersection of 60th Street and East Paris Avenue in Gaines Township.

“Today, we have more than 70 contractors a day working on the job. Every single one of them a West Michigander — something we’re really proud of and part of our commitment to hiring local,” Kramer said.

As for what’s next for the pyramid site, Kramer said Switch will move its initial equipment into the lower level sometime later this year.

“The lower level will have an operating data center. We’ll have clients in the ecosystem. We’ll begin working on building out office space and our Innevation Center in the pyramid. And then by next year, we’ll be starting to build our SUPERNAP data centers on the campus,” Kramer said.

The red air handlers like those the outside of the Las Vegas center will eventually be installed. Switch says it is still about a year out from duplicating the facilities it has in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada.

Switch officials say they will have invested some $5 billion before it’s all said and done. Kramer admitted the company probably lowballed the projected 1,000 jobs Switch and its clients will bring to the pyramid site in the next decade.

If the Vegas operation is any indication, the company is poised to make as big splash in West Michigan.

“Coming into West Michigan is something that we’re excited about and we’re going to be able to take our proven technology into that ecosystem,” Kramer said. “This isn’t a bet on something that could be. This is a bet on something that is.”——Online: Switch SUPERNAP

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